For more than two decades, News 2 has been following the heartbreaking cold case of Morgan Violi – a seven-year-old abducted from her Bowling Green home on July 24, 1996.
Her mother, Stacey Pulliam, struggles to come to terms with what happened 24 years ago. “I was naïve, or I just didn’t want to face it,” she remembered, “But I never thought that she wouldn’t come back.”
Nikki Britt still remembers the day her sister, Morgan, went missing. Britt had been playing with friends outside while Morgan was inside. “There was a time that I was going back to my apartment to get a gallon of water out of a milk jug,” Britt said. On her way a maroon van with an opened door passed her. “He waved … and I waved.”
That maroon van was suspected of taking Morgan, according to witnesses. “She [a friend] came running with her mom to tell us that someone had been kidnapped,” Britt said.
The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office reports the man suspected of taking Morgan appeared to be in his 20s at the time. Witnesses described him as having collar length sandy brown hair, defined muscles, and a sharp, distinct nose.
Three months later, on October 20, Morgan’s mom got a knock on the door from an FBI agent. Morgan’s remains had been discovered in White House, Tennessee. “[He] asked me about the yellow barrette and hair-tie I had in her hair,” Pulliam said. “I had the matching one to it. And I was like yes, why? He didn’t really want to tell me.”
For years, detectives wouldn’t let family see pictures of how they found Morgan. Britt asked to see them recently. “I can’t take it back. I wish I could take it back,” Britt said. “I should’ve never wanted to see those, but it’s curiosity killed the cat.”
Former Bowling Green Police Chief Bill Waltrip worked on Morgan’s cold case. He said it’s a case that will always be burned in his memory. “When you’ve been involved in one, it is even more frustrating and depressing,” Waltrip said. “The nature of the case involving a 7-year-old girl was just a tremendous blow.”
Morgan was one of three girls who went missing around the same time. However, police and family do not believe the cases are related.
On July 25, the day after Morgan went missing, a white van was seen parked outside a barn on North Swift Road in White House for about four hours. That’s roughly 100 feet from where Morgan’s remains were found.
The FBI is now the lead agency on the case. Investigators have collaborated with Bowling Green Police and the Robertson County Sheriff’s Department to bring justice to Morgan and her family.
Despite hundreds of tips, the case has never been closed. “What stands out is just the horrific nature of the case, and then how complicated and how many leads came in,” Waltrip said. “As frustrating as it is for law enforcement, it’s nothing at all compared to what the family goes through.”
Morgan’s family said they rely on their faith that one day they’ll see Morgan again. “I don’t think we’ll ever know what actually happened to her, as far as how she was killed, or anything like that,” Britt said. “Hopefully it was very quick and she didn’t suffer, but even if she did, she’s not suffering anymore.”
Even with the passing of 24 years, Morgan’s mother says her death is something she’ll never be able to make peace with. “To let that anger go would be letting her go, and I can’t do that,” Pulliam said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to let her go.”
The FBI is still looking for information on the white van parked near Morgan’s remains and the maroon van suspected of taking Morgan. Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI in Bowling Green at (270) 745-8662.
News 2 is digging deeper into Tennessee’s most notorious unsolved cases.